This will be the last issue before the new year, so I have a lot of ground to cover. It’s been a pretty great year for the local scene. Several bands have traveled around the country playing shows, with some even heading over to Europe. We’ve had several local CDs released, and had several great shows and even a music festival right in our backyard. Hopefully 2007 will be even more fruitful for the scene.
Anyone who used to hit up the open mic night at Canopy Club during its heyday four or five years ago will certainly remember that two stages were run. In the small room (then “the roost” and now “the void”), there would be acoustic performers, and in the big room, the full bands would rock. Sure, this was a nightmare when anyone opened one of the doors that separated the rooms (okay, even with the doors closed it sucked), but it was an awesome environment that used to pack in 500 to 600 people a week. During this time, the host of the mainstage was Mike Armintrout. You’d hear him performing some excellent original songs like “Corsegedi” and “Band of Make Believe,” along with a shitload of Radiohead covers. He even made a CD of soundboard recordings, titled $2 Teas and A Can of Pee. It seemed he was destined for stardom. But then the Canopy’s open mic slowed. The big room stopped hosting bands. Mike took on more responsibility at the club, becoming a full-on promoter, bringing in bands like Diamond Rio and Passenger. He cut the Carrot Top hair and got married to an amazing woman and forgot all about playing music, except for one day a year. That day is the day of Mike Armintrout’s Annual Holiday Spectacular. This year is the sixth occasion of this milestone, and it falls on Friday, Dec. 22. There is no cover, and drinks will be cheap. Mike’s longtime band, Tater Tot, will be rocking hard, and there should be many special guest appearances. Mike and his wife Heather are two of the nicest people you could ever know, so I’m sure the Canopy will be full of a lot of familiar faces on Friday. Oh wait, as I was going to press, I was informed that this show has been cancelled due to holiday construction at the Canopy. That doesn’t seem very holiday-ee to me, canceling a Christmas show (it’s a tradition!). To hell with it – I’m leaving the paragraph as it is. You can contact Mike Armintrout at firstname.lastname@example.org to relay your sad feelings about the cancellation, and find out about a possible makeup date.
The Iron Post will hold two shows on Friday. A 5 p.m. happy hour show with the Jeff Helgesen Quintet will have no cover charge, and will be followed by the Leigh Meador Christmas Show featuring the Leigh Meador Trio. The late show will start at 9 p.m. with a $4 cover.
Those of you in (or heading to) Chicago for the weekend can catch an excellent show with an excellent cause on Friday. At the Empty Bottle there will be a benefit concert to raise money for Pat Spurgeon, the drummer for the band Rogue Wave. He is in need of a kidney transplant, and musicians all around the country are trying to help. This show will feature Cameron McGill, Noah Harris (of the Elanors), The Demilos and The Shifties. It will be a night full of great performances, and you’ll be doing something good with your money. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door, and the start time is 10 p.m. So, when you’re bored back at Mom and Dad’s house, you have a good excuse to get out of there. You can find more info about Pat at roguewavemusic.com.
Longtime CU mainstay Keith Harden, who moved away to New York state a few years ago, will make a holiday pilgrimage back to the Midwest, playing shows at Huber’s on Friday (8 p.m. with no cover) and at the Iron Post on Saturday for his annual “Keithmas” bash (9 p.m. with a $4 cover).
On Wednesday, Dec. 27, the cure for being sick of holiday cheer and weird cousins that you only see at Christmas will be at Cowboy Monkey. The show will feature the Tractor Kings, Satan’s Beer Vomit (in, apparently, their final show), Triple Whip and Monster Honkey. The show starts at 10 p.m. and there is a $5 cover.
On Thursday, Dec. 28, Live Karaoke Band will once again provide the best karaoke in the area. You get up and sing with a real band, made up of members of The Brat Pack and X-Krush! Five dollars at the door and a trip to the sign-up sheet gets you onstage to show off your rock star skills. Check out livekaraokeband.com for more info and a song list.
Next weekend offers a pair of final shows from local band Lorenzo Goetz. A newly announced show on Saturday, Dec. 30 will help to offset the number of people that won’t be able to make it in to the New Year’s Eve show with elsinore the night after. Saturday night will also feature elsinore, but will add new locals Santa, as well as Brandon T. Washington and Andy Lund in a rare appearance. Andy left last year for sunnier weather in San Diego, working as a rep for Taylor Guitars. Before that, he and Brandon were 2/5 of one of my favorite bands, Temple of Low Men. With Andy back in town, the duo will perform a set on Saturday night. The Saturday show will carry a $7 cover, and will start at 9 p.m. The New Year’s Eve show, which is almost entirely sold out, will start at 9:30 p.m., with elsinore hitting the stage early.
The other big New Year’s Eve party is Seth Fein’s Nicodemus Agency party at the Iron Post. This year the show will feature Headlights, the Beauty Shop, Shipwreck, fireflies, Watery Domestic and Coco Coca. You can get tickets in advance for $15 at the Iron Post and at Exile on Main St. Last year’s show was packed, and featured a drunk Seth Fein kissing anything that moved. Don’t worry, he’s gentle.
And speaking of Exile on Main St., if you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas, a gift certificate from CU’s best record store is never a bad idea.
If you’ve never been there, now’s the time. It’s located in the One Main building in downtown Champaign, right next to Merry Ann’s. Head honcho Jeff Brandt offers new CDs, DVDs, vinyl and games, as well as used items in the same categories. There is also a rental service with a great selection. The local music section is also fantastic. There’s something for pretty much everyone, which is why I like to give gift certificates from there. That and I’m a terrible gift shopper, so saying, “I love you this much money’s worth,” is pretty much my only option. So, check out Exile if you haven’t yet, even if it’s only to throw down on a vintage arcade game (for free!). It’s tough to get a locally owned kind of record store experience in CU anymore. Parasol is great, but the layout isn’t made for in-store shoppers (they do mail order), though they don’t mind you coming in at all. Record Swap is great for vinyl and some CDs, but new stuff isn’t a focus there (but man, I’ve been finding a ton of great deals on dollar vinyl there lately). So Exile stands alone in its variety and ease of shopping. Stop in and check it out.
That’s it for me this year. Thanks for reading and thanks for all of the great emails. See you in 2007.
Mike Ingram can be reached at email@example.com.